Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Vintage Fabric and Tops

Those of you who know me, know that I'm a "totally modern" quilter. At least that's where my interests lie. Having made quilts now for 43 years (eek!), I am long past enjoying traditional fabrics, and generally avoid anything that looks old, including reproduction prints from the 1930s to 1950s.

However, when it comes to fabrics from family, my personal preferences fly out the window.

Such is the case when my sister, Susan, texted me this picture on Sunday, June 23. Susan and her husband, along with my brother and his wife, and two cousins, were at our grandparent's Ohio farm, going through a farmhouse full of family items and hoarded junk. Susan planned to dump this stinky box of fabric on the burn heap.

Before she did, I quickly messaged an Instagram friend:@buttoncounterMonica in Texas, who is into vintage fabrics. I told her about Susan's intent to burn the fabrics. Monica said "No! I will pay for shipping!" And that's how I came to receive the fabrics from Susan who brought them to Kansas City from Ohio - double-bagged in plastic bags because of the bad smell.

Daughter-in-law Lyn, helped me go through the fabrics that we spread outdoors on a table.

Grandma saved the smallest scraps. They were rolled and wrapped with bits of fabric.

Even though the outside fabric might not look very good, fabrics on the inside were fine. Everything just held an aged smell.

There was more fabric than I anticipated.

I took pictures and sent them to Monica who said they look like 1940s and 1950s prints. Before boxing them up to send to Monica, I plucked out some prints that I plan to make into keepsakes. I'm thinking to make several Petal Dresden Plate mini quilts. I'll appliqué a 12-petal plate to a 10" X 10" background, and finish them for several women in our family. 

Also among the found items were four quilt tops. I had no idea! As the oldest grandchild, for several summers I spent a week or two on the farm with my grandparents, and never saw Grandma piecing any quilts. She only sewed aprons on her Singer treadle machine, and braided rag rugs. So, either she was a quiet topper, or these tops were made by someone else, perhaps another relative.

The construction of these machine-pieced quilt tops isn't admirable.

This bow tie quilt top is 74" X 85.

This medallion quilt looks like it was made following somewhat of a double Irish chain design. It's 74" X 84" and is the most scrappy of any of the quilt tops.

This 64" x 79" quilt top is made of 32 different hand-embroidered flower blocks that measure about 8" x 8". Someone put a lot of time into the embroidery. More of the solid green fabric was with the quilt top, probably meant for binding. 

This 67" X 88" quilt top of random blue squares in squares was granddaughter Celina's favorite. We noticed that the left-hand border is missing, and there was no fabric to complete it. After consulting with Monica about how I might finish this quilt for Celina, this is the only quilt top I decided to keep. The other three quilt tops went with the fabrics to Monica. 

While some people might ask how I can part with these fabrics and quilt tops, I have to be realistic about what I would do with them. Family members don't want fabric, or unfinished quilts, and I certainly don't need more quilts! Instead, I'm feeling pleased to know that these are going to a home where they will be appreciated, and maybe even used. I'm looking forward to seeing more of how Monica uses any of it.

In the meantime, this is what I've done with the vintage pieces I kept. Using Vintage Quilt Soak, I hand-washed the fabrics twice, rinsed them, and laid them out flat, on the lanai table, to dry. The odor is gone.

Pressing scraps, and cutting and machine-piecing Dresden petals begins. Linda


  1. Thank you so much for these. I am beyond blessed. This may have been a Devine form of 'pay it forward', as I just last week donated 10 large bins of fabric to the Linus Connection. I promise to make some vintage quilts that will make you proud.

  2. I am glad you are moving the fabric and quilt tops forward to someone who can use them.

  3. What a great story and to find three quilt tops!! Wow!
    I love that you found a home for that which you can't use, and that some one will be able to enjoy what your grandmother saved. Glad you are back--welcome home!

  4. I'm glad the fabrics and tops have found new homes too! Makes you think about where our UFO's might end up when we shuffle off. Knowing the young ones and their preference for shining and new, they may well end up in landfill, I guess! One reason at least to get those quilts finished! And don't forget, you have that Liberty prize to work with too! :-))

  5. Incredible discovery at your gramma's place. I am so glad these things were not destroyed. Non-admirable construction sounds like what my grand girls will say when they discover my creations, haha
    Everything you have is really a treasure.
    I have ALL of my mother's sewing things, AND my oldest sisters sewing things as well (she died at age 48 in 2000) It takes a while to let go of some of those things, but I have had to.
    Nice story, Linda. Happy next chapter

  6. I'm so glad you decided to keep a few pieces of the fabrics and make something with them to remember your grandma by. Love that blue-grey umbrella fabric! I see in the photos several of the fabrics used in the Blockade quilt which I hand quilted after purchasing the top on eBay. It sounds like you knew the perfect person to share those treasures with. Do you think the intent of the three border quilt was to have the non-border side against the wall where it wouldn't be seen. I've seen a few other older quilts that were constructed in that fashion.

  7. What a wonderful find, and so nice that you have a friend who will appreciate these vintage beauties. Great that you are keeping one top to finish for your granddaughter and it will be fun o see what you make with the other fabric pieces you are keeping.

  8. I would have loved to be there just see the different prints and plunder. The tops are real treasures and glad they are all going to a good home!

  9. What a great find. Glad you decided to donate the pieces and tops to someone who will use them.

  10. What a treasure trove!! Love all those tops and fabrics. Smell aside, they are wonderful. Glad you saved them from the burn pile!

  11. How interesting! So glad you could keep a bit and share the rest. I have been given a few vintage tops and quilts that need care, and I'm sad I'm not motivated to do what needs done. Maybe one of these days...

  12. What a fun find! I can't wait to see if you do anything with them!

  13. As I get older I realize I can't hang on to as much 'stuff' as I might like to so I admire your ability to part with things that have a history within your family. That would be hard for me. Nice that you knew of someone who will put them to good use.

  14. I’m sure she’ll have a ball with all that fabric! Sounds like they went to a good home.

  15. We can't keep everything! It sounds like you made thoughtful choices on what to do with these fabrics and quilt tops.


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